By Dave Mayfield
29 October 2017

WILLIAMSBURG (The Virginian-Pilot) – Climate scientists in the federal government have been on the defensive since President Donald Trump took office in January.

But military leaders will continue to address the risks that climate change poses to bases and national security, a senior Pentagon official said at conference Friday on sea level rise.

Maureen Sullivan, a Defense Department deputy assistant secretary who oversees environmental issues, indicated that Defense Secretary James Mattis has set that tone from day one of the Trump administration.

The Senate confirmed Mattis by 98-1 on the day Trump was inaugurated. Though it was apparent Mattis would breeze through, his senior aides still combed the written answers that Pentagon officials helped craft in response to senators' written questions.

Sullivan said they didn't like the "wishy-washy" words on climate change that her staffers submitted.

"They came back to us and said: 'These are too weak. Secretary Mattis believes in climate change and the risk to national security. You need to make those stronger.' "

Within the government, Sullivan said, "a changing climate" is replacing "climate change" as the term de rigueur. No matter what it's called, she said: "The fundamentals stay the same. The same general policy is that this is a risk that we need to integrate in day-to-day decision-making."

Screenshot of the Dr. Jane McKee Smith presentation to the 'Defending our Coasts: Ensuring Military Readiness & Economic Viability As Waters Rise' conference, sponsored by the William & Mary Law School's Virginia Coastal Policy Center, 27 October 2017. Graphic: William & Mary Law School

Friday's conference, which drew more than 200 attendees, was called "Defending our Coasts: Ensuring Military Readiness & Economic Viability As Waters Rise." It was sponsored by the William & Mary Law School's Virginia Coastal Policy Center.

It didn't take long for presenters to make the case for why climate change and sea level rise threaten military readiness. [more]

In Trump Era, Rising Seas Still a Concern for Defense Department

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